Monday, May 9, 2011

Tragedy at Charlebois

May 9, 2011 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Some thirty-five years ago a man tragically lost his life at Charlebois Spring. This story begins in St. Johns, Ohio some fifty years ago.

Harold Lewis Polling had just completed reading “The Lost Dutchman Mine,” by Sims Ely. Harold was convinced he could figure out where the Lost Dutchman Mine was located
if he made a few trips to Arizona and looked over the area. His wife wasn’t sure it was a good idea, but always supported him. Polling made his first trip to Arizona in early spring of 1973. Dallas Adair, who owned Greenhorn Stables at the time, packed Harold into the mountains. Dallas had recommended Charlesbois Spring because of the abundant shade and plenty of water. Charlebois Spring had served as a popular campsite for Dutch hunters over the years. The William A. Barkley had his cowboys move the old cabin at Charlebois to Bluff Springs around 1948. This opened the area for camping.

Harold Polling was very pleased with the camping area at Charlebois. He was still in good shape at 52 and really enjoyed the rigors of camping in the mountains and hiking around the area checking out all the clues he had assembled from his research. Harold never left camp without his 44. Magnum pistol strapped to his waist. He was a peaceful man, but didn’t want to appear like a dude wandering around the mountains.

Each year Polling returned to Arizona and the Superstition Mountains to continue his search. He had narrowed down his area and finally staked a claim. He worked his claim believing he had found the gold of Superstition Mountain.

It was the fall of 1976 Harold decided to make another trip to his mining claim in the Superstition Mountains from his home in Ohio. His plan was to check out some new clues he had found. He and a friend, Ronald Cook, were packed into the mountains and set up their camp once again at Charlebois on September 3, 1976.

Polling and Cook spent the weekend resting and decided to work hard the following week. On Monday they started working at the claim trying to dig through some caliche. They had little success, but worked hard at it. On Thursday, September 9, 1976 they were digging in the same area when they decided to return to camp for lunch.

As Harold walked into camp he unstrapped his .44 Magnum revolver and hung it on his shoulder. When he leaned over his bed the revolver fell, hit the ground and discharged. The bullet hit Harold in the left side. Cook could see immediately the injury was extremely serious. Harold was still conscious while he instructed Cook to go for help.

It was a three and half hour walk out to First Water. Ronald did all he could do for Harold then grabbed a canteen and headed out to First Water. The nine-mile journey that lay ahead was a challenging walk under the best of circumstances. Four hours later Ronald was able to contact the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office. The Sheriff’s Office immediately called for a helicopter to evacuate Polling. Harold’s wound was too severe for him to survive. He was immediately transported to a hospital were he was pronounced dead.

Ronald Cook told investigators that Polling had a holstered 44 Cal. Revolver on a belt slung over his shoulder. When he learned over the revolver fell from the holster, discharged and the bullet hit Harold in the left side. Maricopa County Assistant Medical Examiner Dr. Thomas B. Jarvis reported the bullet penetrated Polling’s lungs and spleen. Internal bleeding was the cause of Polling’s death.

Harold Polling was a regular visitor to Arizona and the Superstition Mountains. He carried an Arizona driver’s licenses. Polling’s son said his father loved his prospecting trips to Arizona. This was certainly a tragedy for the Polling family in St. Johns, Ohio.

Those who carry firearms should have good training. Without training, accidents often occur. This tragedy could have been avoided with a little more caution carrying a firearm.